Vancouver neighbourhoods tired of towers, maybe it's time to build down?
Before heading to work this morning I took a moment to breathe in the crisp spring air on my balcony, looking out over the Burrard Inlet to the majestic snowcapped north shore mountains. Birds chirping, kids heading off to school, the faint smell of my neighbour's breakfast drifting in the breeze, it was one of those moments that I tend to have several times throughout the year where I hear my internal voice saying matter of factly "no wonder everyone wants to live here" or "No wonder this town is outrageously expensive" and so on.
Vancouver's housing prices have remained at a crisis level for years now, and yet we are expecting to accommodate hundreds of thousands more people in our municipality and 1.2 million in total in the Metro Vancouver Region. We are running out of space, and yet residents in Marpole, Grandview Woodlands, Langara-Oakridge, Mt. Pleasant and elsewhere have clearly raised the war cry against further height increases and density in our communities. How can we reconcile this complex conundrum?
I have an idea so crazy it just might work.
We build down...
Oh, great, you're still here. Well let me continue.
We care a great deal about how our neighbourhoods change, how they are impacted by development, how big towers block our views, drive up our property prices. Many of us don't like change. We like consistency, dependability, familiarity. To many of us Oakridge is scary, Rize is intimidating and towers near Broadway Skytrain are ugly and out of scale with our community character etc. But we need to put these new people somewhere, how can we have our beautiful city today and into tomorrow yet absorb this growth? How much density, or reverse height, can we add below? Because pretty soon that may be all that's left. I suppose reverse height would be depth. I'm sure I can come up with impressive sounding technical terms for all this stuff by the end of the article.
Kind of like this, see?
Perhaps the City could create Depth Transfer Bonuses to retain heritage buildings on the surface, and parks, and other amenities. That would be great because we could add those hundreds of thousands of people and sell those hundreds of thousands of units, and we the existing residents wouldn't have to see them blocking our views, but we'd still get new parks and community centres. Well, maybe a few of those community centres would have to be underground for the new CHUDS or mole people resident too. In any event, I think I'm on to something here. Other people (people with far more profile than myself) seem to agree.
In fact, we've done this before. In Turkey the ancient city of Derinkuyu was able to accommodate 50,000 people. Hell, if they could accommodate 50,000 over a thousand years ago surely Vancouver could do it today. Here's a list of some underground cities, modern and ancient to further substantiate my half-baked ideas.